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Funding cuts: University building boom in jeopardy

University building projects across the country could be delayed or dropped following the government’s decision to slash funding by more than £500 million

In a letter to the Higher Education Funding Council for England, business secretary Peter Mandelson said capital budget was to plunge from £938 million to £404 million in 2010/11.

Architects have responded to the news with dismay. Jonathan Morgan, southern regional chairman of Archial Architects, said: ‘Rather than risk damaging that reputation by just slashing the higher education capital/building programme…the government should be taking steps to protect the hard-earned status [of the UK’s higher education sector]

‘The government needs to be honest about the funding available to universities over the next few years… to enable them to plan ahead properly, rather than hinting at undefined cuts which will result in uninformed panic decisions on capital spending.’

Meanwhile, Jonathan Harford, project director at Devereux Architects, said: ‘We have always anticipated this. [Universities] are a soft target for the government. We have [already] seen the government charge students and reduce grants.’

Warren Jukes, director at Associated Architects, said: ‘Hardly any OJEUs are coming through at all. It’s definitely affecting future work. Funding will be tight.’

As universities come to terms with the loss of funding, Cambridge University said it was considering selling bonds for the first time in its 800-year history in order to raise almost £300 million for its huge building project led by AECOM (formerly EDAW).

Despite outrage from The Russell Group, which represents 20 leading UK universities, a spokesperson for the Conservative party said it could not pledge to reverse any cuts without more information about the government’s planned expenditure.

‘The government has not published its spending plans beyond this year,’ said the spokesperson. ‘They usually outline spending for three years and may release that information before the election. It’s hard to say without much more detail

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